The Urban Eye

By what miracle of look and thought, can the ordinary object, the everyday object, become an object of art? Who would suspect, behind a glass door, at the corner of a wall, on pavements trampled by thousands of crossings, that hides an artistic image, something that reveals both a personality and an age?

It is a concoction, a chemistry, that operates to obtain such a result. But it is inexplicable. We can reflect on the case, build hypotheses, theories, psychological, sociological, artistic, we can do everything, say everything, think everything, but nothing, ever, will really explain the fact. Now it is this irreducible, implacable fact that Isabelle Girollet shows us today in all its plenitude. How!? This little woman, sparkling, joyous, mischievous, and so naive at the same time, to perform such a miracle on a reality as banal as the modern architecture in its most flat details! It’s unimaginable, we will say. Well no! It is precisely this personality, so spontaneous, never cluttered with dusty academic knowledge, always on the other hand open to a changing world, always in agreement with it like she agrees with herself, which offers us these astonishing images, so renewed in their visions and their conceptions. Because Isabelle Girollet had accustomed us to photographs certainly extracted from large contemporary architectural ensembles, often industrial, but she never had gone so far in the renovation. To the point that we hardly recognize her way. Everything was clear, crisp, cold, sometimes freezing, although still very colorful, and everything becomes blurred, punctuated, moving, lively even, almost jerky sometimes. And even more than before, we are in significant detail, revealing an idea. It is almost tiny that explodes in abstract image. A lock, a corner of glass, and we have a composition. How to understand this?
There is almost only the color, so revealing of her, that reminds us of the first vision of Isabelle. Oh! certainly, everything is built as before, perfectly balanced, but it moves now, it slips, it jumps, it glows, sometimes quickly, it shines so it reflects a moving light. It’s the discovery of the notion of time in the image. That’s probably what Isabelle Girollet wanted, to make live her photographs, take the spectator with them, lead them in space-time. Make no mistake, this is only a step, a step that reminds us as well Lucio Fontana as Pierre Soulages, and it’s a safe bet that she will go further in the abstraction not lyrical, but spatialist, in this search for movement and time in the closed and frozen space of the image, where forms, lines, colors complement each other and play together to energize the surface, to make it even move and extract it from its own straitjacket. There is some intellectual who does not know, because all this, with Isabelle Girollet, is done in the greatest simplicity and the greatest candor. However, something does not deceive. She confided to me some time ago that she came home exhausted by a day's work. She had indeed walked, photographed, but above all she had immersed whole herself in her reflection, looking for something, this something that is her prints, which are her thought, herself given entirely to her shots, to the point of getting confused with them.

There is no mystery, any image of photographic art is more than just a shooting. From that, it would be almost mockery, if there was in the background a true personality of an artist, that Isabelle Girollet possesses at the highest point.

Jeremy Benoit
General Curator at the Palace of Versailles in charge of the Trianons

The abstract photography

Abstract photography always draws its source from the world around us. The photographer is the one who knows how to see what we do not see.

His palette is the world; his brushes, the light.

He does not steal images: he creates them, by his patience to wait for the favorable moment for the shooting, by his knowledge to see, but also his know-how. So, he makes an image that belongs only to him, but that addresses the imagination of everyone. Thus created, the photographs are offered to us in their mystery and their formal beauty, as poetic or musical dreams … place to abstract compositions, which take away their real meaning to give them a poetic dimension.

In the same way, by surprising framing, the scale ratio, linked to the recognition of the object, disappears. By seeking to recognize, to identify, we then take to imagine, to dream. The metaphors that will be used to describe these images will be those of painting, drawing, and calligraphy as well. But it is a question here of photography, and of the freedom it has taken in its relation to reality. The question that faces these images should no longer be “What is it?”, which refers to the object represented by the photograph. But “What do I see?” which stops at the very surface of the paper, without seeking to pierce beyond it. It is in this very space, between the subject represented and the image that emerges from it, that the freedom of the photographer, like that of the spectator, is exercised. In this fragile and imprecise limited space, with shifting boundaries, lies poetry.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, photography becomes the preferred mean of disseminating information. It testified to all the horrors of the war and the photo-reportage gained its nobility. The Magnum photographic agency was founded in 1949. But others, especially in the United States, think that photography can express something else, that it can speak to us differently at the very moment when Jackson Pollock and Rothko shake the straightjacket of figurative painting.

These photographers find their language in the inexhaustible dialogue between matter and light, which is the essence of their art.

French National Library